The Colombian Film Festival of New York is bringing in the big guns to kick off its fifth edition. For its opening night selection, they’ll be screening Harold Trompetero’s Perros (Dogs), starring none other than the ghetto klown himself, John Leguizamo. But anyone expecting the biting satire that characterizes the Colombian-born, New York-raised actor and comedian is in for a surprise. Co-starring Babel‘s Adriana Barraza, Perros is the harrowing tale of Misael (Leguizamo) who’s sent to prison after being found guilty of a crime of passion. Abandoned by his loved ones and subject to abject humiliations in jail, he finds an unlikely companion in Sarna, a prison dog.
Set against a dreary backdrop of gray dirty walls and with scenes that border on the painfully cruel (lotta blood and torture here), it’s needless to say that this is Leguizamo as you’ve never seen him before.
Elsewhere in the week-long festival you’ll be able to see more of the world-caliber filmmaking that’s coming out of the South American country. That includes a special screening of the first feature-length Colombian film to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. If you missed Ciro Guerra’s El abrazo de la serpiente when it first came out last year, this is your chance to see his black and white hypnotic take on the Amazon forest and colonial history on the big screen.
On the documentary side, the one film any cinephile interested in Colombian cinema should watch is Luis Ospina’s Todo comenzó por el fin (It All Started at the End). Part history lesson and part personal memoir, Ospina’s doc tells the story of the Cali group known as Caliwood, a filmmaking collective from the 70s and 80s who have since become an integral part of the country’s cinematic history. This narrative is interwoven with his own struggle with an illness that almost kept him from finishing his film.
Collectively, the 15 feature films that make up the festival’s program work as a snapshot of an industry in bloom. Films like Pizarro, about the first guerrilla commander in Latin American history to sign the peace agreement with his government, and La noche herida, which follows a displaced family in the outskirts of Bogotá, show the various ways contemporary directors are tackling the legacy of the armed conflict. Others, like El paseo 4, the latest installment of Colombia’s most successful silver screen family road trip comedy; X500, a Babel-like film with stories in Canada, Colombia, and Mexico about feeling like an outsider; and Keyla, a coming of age story set in the Caribbean island of Providencia, suggest there really is an abundance of talent being encouraged to redefine what it means when we talk about Colombian cinema.
Luckily for curious New Yorkers, you can see the full range of the country’s output later this month, and really, there’s not one film you should skip—including the various short films that are also being shown throughout.
The Colombian Film Festival of New York runs March 23-26, 2017